Importance of Obedience
As Jesus began teaching, He went to a mountaintop and with His disciples around Him, He startled those who heard Him by the way He preached. “When Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:28-29). So much of what He taught was so different from what most individuals thought about religion.
Many Jews of His day strongly believed that the outward manifestation of their devotion was the evidence of their acceptance by God. They thought that long, repetitious prayers publicly delivered showed that those praying were accepted by God (Matt. 6:5-7). They thought that regular fasting characterized by disfigured faces indicated the holiness of the person fasting (Matt. 6:16-18). They thought that those who gave great gifts to those in need, in such a way so that others saw it, was the proof of great spirituality (Matt. 6:1-3).
Jesus looked at those who taught these ideas and described them as wolves who looked like sheep. He urged His followers to take a deeper look at these religious leaders and judge them by their fruits (Matt. 7:15-16).
Look at the clarity of His words as He neared the end of this discourse, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 7:21). This was the exact opposite of those who defined spirituality with the wrong measure. Those who did this thought their salvation was assured because they called Him “Lord,” yet Jesus said that such did not guarantee acceptance.
He then mentioned other things which would not bring salvation. At the final judgment there would be those prophets (preachers) claiming to speak for God who would be lost. He said that there would be those who claimed they were performing miracles like casting out demons who would be lost. He said there would be those who claimed to perform mighty deeds who also would hear the words, “Depart from Me, I never knew you” (Matt. 7:22-23).
Then, who will be saved? He answers this in one brief phrase and one parable. Who will be saved—those who do the will of My Father (Matt. 7:21)! External religion without obedience to what He says cannot bring salvation. The parable of the two builders vividly shows one’s “spiritual house” does not stand unless the rules are followed.
It is not enough to be religious. The only one who is assured by Jesus of salvation is the one who “…does the will of My Father.” True religion is manifested in the life of an individual, but those deeds come from a heart which first seeks the will of the Father. This shows the importance of obedience!